Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Taste of Fort Collins

Hours after we landed in Fort Collins on Wednesday, we got down to the business of tasting Fort Collins. Fellow traveling friends Deb and Rod arranged a tour at New Belgium, Fort Collins' most famous craft brewery. After the time we'd had getting across Nebraska, I was ready for a cold brew or two. Deb and I stepped right up and checked in for our tour.

A distinctive attribute of New Belgium brand is "Fun". Just as customers have fun when they drink New Belgium beers, it's obvious that employees have fun working here. The "sculptures" hanging above these vats are made of bicycle rims and disco balls. How fun!

The bottling and canning lines were not running during our visit. But, I thought this can chandelier above the canning room was fun.

They were brewing beer today, though. This slurry of future beer was stirring around one of those big stainless steel vats.

Sure, it's interesting to see how the beer is made. But, it's lots more fun to see how it tastes. Here's Rod enjoying one of the many samples offered on the tour. We topped off the afternoon with a tasty meal in Fort Collins' historic Old Town area. It was a great way to kick off our month-long stay.

We settled in at the Lakeside KOA, on the northwest edge of Fort Collins, and enjoyed a couple of days of well-deserved down time. We had the good fortune to meet up with friends Craig and Anne, who were passing through Fort Collins on their way to Michigan. We enjoyed an evening of wine, dessert and wonderful conversation. We wished them safe travels and look forward to seeing them down the road again.

Yesterday, we met Deb and Rod at Taste of Fort Collins, an annual event that highlights the wide variety of tasty food and drink the town has to offer. With bright sun and rapidly rising temperatures, we made a quick pass by all of the tents and enjoyed a sample or two.

From Taste of Fort Collins, began to notice a plume of smoke from a new wildfire in the foothills to the northwest. We checked online and learned the 20-acre fire was 10 or 15 miles away and firefighters were on the scene. After an hour or so of meeting Deb and Rod's kin and sampling the best Fort Collins could dish out, we decided it was time to go home to cool off and keep an eye on the fire.

By the time we arrived back to our campsite, the blaze had grown to 200 acres. Though it was 10 miles and a couple of ridges away from us, we were not concerned about our safety. But, from our vantage point we could definitely keep an eye on it all. The combination of high temperatures, bone dry humidity and gusty winds provided a recipe for this thing to grow.

By sunset, the fire covered 8000 acres and had no containment. Winds were expected to kick up through the night. The good news was the temperatures would be cooler. The bad news was it was going to be windy.

By sunrise, if you can call it that, our campground was covered in a thick cloud of dark, choking smoke. Ash was falling from the sky. The gusty winds that had kicked up around 3 AM continued to fan the flames. The fire had exploded to 12,000 acres overnight. There was still zero containment. The eastern edge of the evacuation zone was just three miles to the west of us. The afternoon forecast called for gusty winds from the direction of the fire. At the very least, we were in for more smoke. The uncontained fire was getting too close for comfort.

Our house has wheels, so we decided to get them rolling. We decided to get out of the smoke for a bit while firefighters get some containment on this thing. As we made the turn out of the campground, we could see how much closer the flames were. If you look closely you can see smoke from spot fires that were just a couple of miles away.

We took advantage of easy Sunday afternoon traffic and headed south to Denver. We pulled into Cherry Creek State Park, which is one of our favorites. We grabbed a walk-up site for a couple of nights. Then, we'll decide where to go from here.

Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with the evacuees of the High Park Fire, and the brave firefighters who are working so hard in the heat and rough mountain terrain to protect homes and manage this blaze.

1 comment:

Debbie and Rod said...

I'm so glad we got to at least spend a little time with you guys. Where we were staying (in Loveland) we didn't have the smoke but I know the smoke and ash were bad at my daughter's in Fort Collins. Safe travels to you two.

Deb & Rod